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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

You Be The Judge



 
A Virginia woman bought a box of junk for seven dollars at a local flea market. When she got home she found a small painting in the box, a nicely framed landscape. The painting didn’t interest her but she felt the frame had value. A gold tag fixed to the frame identified the artist. She didn’t recognize the name: Renoir.
      
The woman’s mother stopped her from ripping the painting from the frame and convinced her to have it appraised. Experts at an auction house identified the canvas as a modest but authentic Pierre-Auguste Renoir and suggested an opening bid in the neighborhood of a hundred thousand dollars. Then the FBI got involved.
      
Renoir is extremely famous and his paintings can fetch millions of dollars. This painting is not a masterpiece (as it’s been described by the media) but the unfortunate truth in art collecting is this: a bad painting by a famous artist is worth much more than a masterpiece by an unknown. As a genuine Renoir, this picture is immensely collectible and had to come from somewhere.
      
Agents for The Baltimore Museum of Art have just come forward to say the tiny canvas was stolen from them in 1951, even though a Washington Post reporter has discovered documents in the museum’s library showing the painting only hung in the  museum from 1937 until 1949. The museum has no explanation for this discrepancy, other than to insist the painting was stolen in 1951.
       
The Baltimore Art Museum has been unable to identify the insurance company that paid out $2,500 for loss of the Renoir, the painting’s value at the time. The insurer is presumed to have gone out of business decades ago.
      
No photographs exist showing this painting in their collection, but the Museum is in possession of a yellowed index card with a description of the Renoir, enough proof for that defunct insurance company back in 1951. But is it enough proof today? The painting has been seized by the FBI’s Stolen Art division, which will assume custody of the painting until a court determines ownership.
      
So you be the judge. If the decision were yours, who should be awarded this $100,000 painting?

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Thanks to the great guys at Dude Write for presenting my recent post Prepare To Die with two awards. If you haven't checked out this wonderful site, I highly recommend it. 

 

39 comments:

  1. I think I'd try to find a compromise. If the Baltimore museum wants it back, let them compensate the lady for it. Maybe not a hundred K but something decent.

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  2. Lady's to keep and sell. Museum has already been compensated by insurance

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  3. With only sketchy evidence...I'd say it goes to the lady. Insurance paid out, so the museum's claims are moot.

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  4. The frugal shopper essentially saved it from being trashed. She essentially rediscovered it. Any financial reward should go to her. So it is said, so it shall be done. lol

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  5. I agree with Daniel, the woman who found it, or perhaps her Mother, should be allowed to keep the proceeds from the sale. Mind you it doesn't look very genuine to me.

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  6. I would say that the woman should keep it, besides isn't there a statuette of limitations at this point? If it was me, I would gladly sell it to the museum for a modest fee.

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  7. Greed plain and simple by the Baltimore Museum of Art. Let the courts decide what's fair. Before it's over the government will own the painting. That's what they do best. Just saying.

    Have a terrific day. :)

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  8. I find it very curious and suspicious that the museum would have recognized this painting from 1951 -- it's not listed and whoever worked at the museum must be long gone by now. So how did they come up with the idea it belonged to them? I think I'd go with the old adage "Finders keepers" on this one!

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  9. The person who bought the box of "junk."

    My uncle used to buy boxes of "junk" for little money at estate sales. He came home with an early Tiffany bowl and other valuable items. If I buy a box of "junk," I end up with a box of junk!

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  10. The museum has already received compensation from the insurance company, which no longer exists. The money & the painting should be HERS! Why is the government even involved? There IS a statute of limitations on this sort of thing!

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  11. The museum has no claim. The insuror might if they still existed. It's hers.

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  12. The museum has no claim. The insuror might if they still existed. It's hers.

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  13. I don't know who should get the painting. What I want to know is...how come I can rattle around flea markets/second shops for hours and NEVER have I found anything worth more than the 50cent price tag on the article. Why does everyone else find these wonderful paintings and collectibles? Not fair guys!

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  14. I say frig that, she should totally be able to keep her painting.. :/

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  15. What ? The FBI hasn't heard of "finders keepers?"

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  16. I don't know the law but I'm swayed by the argument that the museum was compensated, so they have no claim. The women who didn't recognize the name "Renoir" should be made to take an art appreciation class, but the painting is hers.

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  17. Screw the museum.

    I don't much like art.
    But, when I do, I prefer "La Maja Desnuda."

    Because that's how I roll.

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  18. Of course, you probably have figured out that I always want a happy ending so I want the woman to have it. I agree with Al Penwasser....screw the museum...they got compensated a long time ago and seemingly have poor record keeping,

    You are the one that is so knowledgeable about art...do you have a strong opinion about this?

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  19. No police report? Finders keepers!

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  20. The rule is that stolen property gets returned to the victim of the theft. (Another reason for "Buyer Beware" disclaimers). In this case that would be the insurance company that paid out on the museum's claim. If they no longer exist and have no shareholders or other rightful representatives, or creditors, then I think it's great and the woman should be allowed to keep it. Poor thing is going to pay taxes on the full value if she's not careful.

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  21. Buying stolen goods unknowingly does not give you clear title.

    Once the insurance has paid out on something that is stolen, you no longer have claim, unless you pay back the insurance company. If the company is out of business, and the person now claiming it was not the thief, you compensate that person.

    If the museum won't pay the going rate, they don't deserve to get it back, as their loss was compensated.

    At least, that's my take.

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  22. Obviously this situation causes a lot of controversy and strife, and so for the greater good, and to avoid any further complications, I will offer to step up and take full responsibility for the $100,000. And just so you know how fair and equitable I am, Chatterbox, I'm willing to split it with ya'.

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  23. I wouldn't presume to know who should get the painting. I'm not that wise. Maybe a judge should threaten to cut it in half to see who will give up the painting to keep it intact. I saw a fascinating documentary last year about a woman who bought an "ugly" painting in a thrift store. The argument continues regarding whether it is a Pollock.

    Love,
    Janie

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  24. The museum already collected from the insurance company, so I think it should go to the lady. Just my opinion. Even if the museum once owned it--they settled on the stolen property long ago. They should offer to buy it fro her if they want it so badly. ;)

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  25. I think stolen things should go back the the owners . Some type of compensation could be paid to the woman who bought the box of junk.

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  26. The uncultured lady should have first dibs. She didn't steal it. She didn't go looking to buy a non-masterpiece on the black market. She hit the jackpot with her junking money. The museum was paid off by the insurance company. Case closed. I love being the judge.

    I wish my husband was so lucky with his flea market/auction finds. Too bad he wants to buy things like a box marked "Meat". Auction meat. Not a Renoir. He would never recognize the name of a famous painter. This is the guy who referred to Katharine Hepburn as "Betty, that famous author who just died." Two years after her death.

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  27. G'day CC. I vote for the lady. Let the museum pay her for it if they want it back.Take care. Liz...

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  28. I'm a sucker for the underdog so I'd give it to the woman.

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  29. Since the museum was already compensated by the insurance company, they no longer have any claim regardless of where it shows up.

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  30. Reminds me of that show, they try to win the auctions for some closed boxes and end up with some great stuff

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  31. Oh a difficult one, however the museum have already been paid for their loss so it cannot be theirs.

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  32. I would not like to make this decision. I do watch White Collar on TV and this sounds like a good plot for them. LOL

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  33. The museum has already collected the insurance money so in my opinion it belongs to the lady.

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  34. Since the Biltmore Estates reside in my home state, I say give it back.
    And Looper rocked.

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  35. That's crap! If they have no more proof than that, then it should be the ladies who found it. I don't know the law but what they said up above about the insurance paid out so the museum has no claim sounds right to me.

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